For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Slow Jam Saturday: Jodeci, Lately
Renowned R&B group Jodeci is currently delighting their fan base as one of the opening acts for the New Edition’s Culture tour. The four-man R&B group has an eloquent catalog of slow jams and ballads, which could all serve as this week’s Slow Jam Saturday selection. However, as my wife and I are attending the Baltimore date of the culture tour, I should highlight one of the group’s live singles, “Lately,” from the album Uptown MTV Unplugged.
It was summer 1993, and Jodeci was still basking in the success of their debut album, Forever My Lady. The group’s latest single, “Let’s Go Through the Motions,” was the first single from the soundtrack to the Hip Hop comedy, Who’s the Man. The group, along with label mates Heavy D & the Boyz, Father MC, Christopher Williams, and Mary J. Blige, were all participants in MTV Unplugged.
Unplugged’s format of highlighting musical artists playing acoustic instruments was perfect for DeVanté Swing to showcase his piano playing skills. In addition, Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records, wanted the world to know just how strong Kci & Jo Jo’s vocal chops were and suggested doing an oldies cover song. The song the group chose was “Lately” from Stevie Wonder’s Hotter than July album.
Ironically, the Hailey brothers had never heard the song before and learned it 24 hours before the shows taping. After performing “Forever My Lady,” “Come & Talk to Me,” and “Stay” to an energetic crowd, group member JoJo lets the audience know they have something special for them. Kci and JoJo share lead vocals on the first verse of the classic song.
The Hailey brothers sing in an excellent pitch making the classic ballad their own and paying a respectable homage to Mr. Wonder. As a youth, “Lately” fell into a mondegreen for me, as I genuinely did not understand the lyrics. However, as an adult with life experience, I realize just how much heartbreak “Lately” evokes despite the beauty of the song.
The tune is plain as day. The hero truly thinks his love is undermining him, and he discovers that she is. Nevertheless, how the melody is composed and depicted is exceptionally strong. Lyrics like “What I truly feel, my eyes won’t allow me to stow away … cos they generally begin to cry” and “of late I’ve been gazing in the mirror, gradually dismantling me … attempting to let myself know I have an explanation, with your heart” are excellent.
Jodeci’s version of “Lately” would become one of the group’s signature songs. Who doesn’t remember the hilarious performance of the song on Martin with Martin Lawrence? Furthermore, seeing the group perform the track on The Arsenio Hall Show, complete with a surprise assist from Mr. Wonder himself, is one of the great nineties R&B moments.
Final Grade: A
Jodeci’s cover of “Lately” from Uptown MTV Unplugged is available on all streaming platforms.
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.